FTR Associates' Shippers Conditions Index for March did not show much change from the previous month. The index currently stands at -5.3, representing a moderately unfavorable condition for shippers that is expected to persist until the onset of the busy fall shipping season.
At that point, capacity will begin to tighten further resulting in deterioration in the shipping environment.

By the end of the year and into 2013, shippers can expect further fall off in their position with carriers as their options become more limited and costs increase due to new hours of service regulation implementation and the accompanying reduction in available capacity.

"After a steep drop in February the SCI stabilized in March as conditions in the trucking industry steadied," says Larry Gross, senior consultant for FTR. "February demand was unusually strong, but it appears that some of that volume was simply freight moving earlier this year due to the mild winter weather. The seasonal jump from February to March was not as strong as usual this year."

The SCI sums up all market influences that affect shippers; a reading above zero suggests a favorable shipping environment, while a reading below zero is unfavorable. Details of the current factors affecting the March Shippers Conditions Index are in the May issue of FTR's Shippers Update.

The Shippers Update, launched in 2010, looks at conditions that will affect the cost and efficiency of shipping goods via all transportation modes.